Friday, 22 August 2014

Work in Progress

Just shaping up some text for the Maybe Logic Academy sessions we intend to run in parallel with the 'Find The Others' festival, which accompanies the Cosmic Trigger play in Liverpool.

I have volunteered to moderate a couple of weeks, one on E-Prime, and one on the 8-Circuit Model.   I will use this blog to post the rough drafts.


Tools for Thinking   - To Be, or Not To Be

Language as a Virus

Much of RAW's work revolved around perception and 'belief systems', and most people use words to create their models of the world, which may (or may not) have a close match to the non-verbal 'reality' in which we live.  Other ‘languages’ include mathematical ones, music, art, dance, etc.

Although many cultures (and religions) consider humans somehow different from 'animals', much of our behaviours remain rooted in our primate nature.

We humans may prove unique in our development of a verbal language (although communication in some form pervades the animal and plant kingdoms).

The particular aspect of language that we will look at now relates to the human ability to pass messages down through the generations (Korzybski called this time-binding) and we can receive messages not just orally, as with most tribes, but through writing, which can store information indefinitely.

Unfortunately, such messages may pass on information accurately, or create distortions.

NLP (which owes a lot to Korzybski’s work) refers to deletion, distortion and generalizations, as ineffective ways to communicate.

War of Words

Korzybski spoke several languages, so seems far more likely to have understood how each language imposes a 'grid' over the world. He also worked as an engineer, and understood the precision of mathematics, compared to the ambiguity of words. People who only speak one language can easily mistake their verbal description for 'reality', rather than 'just one way of describing the world'.

In the 1930s, even the maths of Quantum Mechanics began to throw up strange results, undermining the old certainties of scientific language and creating paradoxes (when translated from maths to verbal language). Korzybski set out to 'clean up' English, to avoid the distortions inherent in each kind of language, and create a more rational or objective form of communication.

He devise a series of tools to help formulate the language to avoid ambiguity, and misleading implications, as he thought improvements in the way that we think could help eliminate prejudices, avoid the risk of war over belief systems, etc.

Some of those tools we have already incorporated into modern thinking: the hyphen to link things that language otherwise appears to separate (body-mind, space-time); 'air quotes' around phrases, etc.  You can check out “Science & Sanity” when you have plenty of time available to you.

Bob (and Alfred K) call two-value logic ‘Aristotelian’ – which does not allow any grey areas (the Excluded Middle) or the flexibility of Fuzzy Logic.  Mr K calls his work non-aristotelian or non-A, Bob calls it Maybe Logic.


David Bourland developed one particular aspect of the work, by suggesting the use of English without the verb 'to be'.  Specifically, the 'is' of identity and of predication.  So many arguments take the form of flat assertions: “There is a God,” the certain of which may well elicit in someone else “There isn't”.  The sea is blue; my favourite band is the best, and so on. Such two-vale logic offers little in the way of resolution, but to say “I believe in a creator god” at least owns that it is a personal belief, not a description of “the way things are.”

It can feel awkward at first, to use E-Prime (like learning any new language), and if you find it difficult to make the above distinction (the ‘is’ of identity and predication) then you may prefer to hunt down and eliminate all uses of the verb 'to be'. However, even Bob found it difficult to speak in E-Prime continuously, so when it proves too difficult you can always let yourself off the hook, in what we call E-choice, rather than struggle with alternatives.

e.g. How old are you?   I am 25.

Note: The spook of the continuous present (I am going) is not so important, as it is a quirk of English.
Je vais (French), voy (Spanish) = I go, I am going, I do go.   The use of the verb 'to be' as an auxiliary does not create big problems, just as “I have seen...” does not have anything to do with the possessive (to have).

Occasionally replacing 'is' can feel convoluted, just as writers, feeling bored with 'he said, she said', can get carried away with 'he emphasised, she shouted, he answered, she clarified, etc.'

Many objections got raised on Bob's course.  People complained about how it made the language longer and less elegant, that it sounded clumsy, etc.  In fact, many people resisted before even attempting the exercise (often the sign of a taboo).

On a more positive note

Sometimes the verb ‘to be’ gets used on purpose, particularly in advertising and propaganda:

Guinness is good for you.

This is your brain on drugs.

You will often find it used in making flat assertions [There is a God], or affirmations.[Don't worry, be happy]

John Lilly’s Beliefs Unlimited (a self-hypnotic script) contains lots of uses of the verb, and attempts to convert it to E-Prime proved difficult for me. 

 “What is believed to be true, either is true, or becomes true, within limits to be discovered through experience and experiment.”

In the province of the mind what one believes to be true either will result in accurate predictions now, or will later fulfil any predictions (?)

"In the province of the mind there are no limits."
The province of the mind does not appear to me to have any limits.

"There are no limits."
No-one has ever found the edge.

When asked about my translation attempts, Bob replied:

For ritual I think the Milton Model works
better than the Meta Model.

In NLP, the Meta Model tries to remove deletions, distortions, generalisations, etc – to improve the accuracy of the intended communication. E-Prime would fit here, as a useful tool.  Indeed RAW invented the word 'mosbunall' (most but not all) to soften the effect of generalizations.

The Milton Model, on the other hand, deliberately employs ambiguous language, allowing people to project their own ‘content’ into the material.  You can see why advertisers might prefer that.

In the section of Bob’s book “Everything Is Under Control” (note the ‘is’ in the title) called Language as a Conspiracy, he says this:

“The present author has written two books in E-Prime and finds it does tend to clarify, to de-dogmatize, and to make prose somewhat more scientific. Attempts to write the present book [i.e. Everything Is Under Control] in E-Prime quickly proved hopelessly baroque and created unreadable prose. You need the ‘is of identity’ to describe conspiracy theories. Korzybski would say that proves that illusions, delusions, and ‘mental’ illnesses require the ‘is’ to perpetuate them. (He often said, ‘Isness is an illness’)."


Let's just treat it as an exercise for the week, to discuss the subject of language, communication and how we model the world, employing (as best we can) E-Prime.

Consider it a simple experiment (like not using the word 'I' for a week) – to raise awareness.

The original motto for the MLA forums offers an example:  “We only have one rule in this area of cyberspace - if you can't achieve tolerance, at least attempt courtesy.”
(Not “if you can't be tolerant, at least be courteous.”)

Further reading

William S. Burroughs

The influence of Burroughs on RAW remains one of the things we never got around to in the MLA - The 23 Enigma; authoritarian control systems; conspiracy; distrust of verbal systems and a preference for hieroglyphics or pictograms (RAW ran a course on The Ideogrammic Method); alternative calendars; non-linear writing and, of course, Cut-Ups, which Bob employed to describe drug and dream states in his fiction.

In this context, Burroughs actually studied with Korzybski, and promoted not only avoiding the 'IS' OF IDENTITY, but disliked the EITHER/OR (aristotelean) construction (right or wrong, body or mind, true or false), and use of the definite article "THE" (as in 'the universe', 'the way, the truth and the light', etc).

For more on that, have a look at WSB's The Electronic Revolution; "Journey through time-space" in WSB's The Job;

Robert Anton Wilson

As proof that E-Prime does not have to end up with inelegant language, Robert Anton Wilson wrote the whole of “Quantum Psychology” using E-Prime.  I doubt most readers feel aware of anything odd in the writing.  You can find the section about E-Prime online here, and it also contains exercises you might like to practice with.

The same chapter appears here, but with links to additional reading.  Background reading in Wikipedia, including the whole matter of Korzybski's General Semantics.

This blog offers an amusing take on why some people get so angry about E-Prime:


The evolution of an idea – the 8 Circuit Model – "the latest model, not the last"

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model, that makes the existing model obsolete.”   Bucky Fuller

RAW often called himself a 'model agnostic' – in the sense that, using mental models as tools to understand things can prove very useful, but ideally you don't mistake your mental model for 'reality'.  The map is not the territory.  The model is not the mind.

He particularly liked the 8 circuit model from Tim Leary, which both Bob and Antero Alli expanded and added to.  Antero Alli still runs courses on the subject – with lots of practical work, too.

You will find the model explicitly referred to in both RAW's fiction and non-fiction, and, once familiar with it, you will also notice implicit references to it. Fnord.

In the Illuminatus Chronicles, Sigismundo Celine is aware of the first three ‘souls’ (from Aquinas, drawing on Aristotle) – the Vegetative, the Animal and the Human.  His initiations will supposedly open up the ‘fourth soul’ (connection to the NoMind) and no further distinction gets made).

Bob wrote those books with full knowledge of the later evolutions of this model, which teases out various other levels within that psychedelic ‘fourth soul’.

In these later models, a fourth level appears within the ‘terrestrial circuits’ – related to the pack or tribe, and the price we pay to feel part of the group.  It mostly gets described as including mating and reproduction, so naturally folds back to a new life, beginning again in Circuit 1.

For individuals who get out of that endless loop, the escape takes various forms, and other levels unfold as the individual follows that path.  This higher realm gets divided (in this model) into four other systems, whose attributes vary, their names have changed, and even the sequence doesn’t seem fixed and final.

In brief, the first circuit refers to the most basic spatial dimension, approach – avoidance, just as the plant reaches for the sun, or the amoeba avoids things it does not wish to incorporate so some things appeal to us, and others repel. The second circuit relates to the mammalian aspect of space, dominance – submission, finding our place (I’d say up & down, but Bucky Fuller considered those an illusion of beings living on the surface of a planet). The third spatial dimension, we know as left and right (sometimes they mirror each other, sometimes they seem different). This circuit is linked to the human, using both sides of the brain, and relating to language (in the complex form we have uniquely evolved), and the opposable thumb – our preferred way of considering ‘intelligence’. The fourth circuit relates to time, the tribe, our links to others, and the rights and responsibilities that go with that, including reproduction.

That fourth circuit appears far more limited than the ‘fourth soul’ of the Illuminatus Chronicles.  In this later model all those higher aspects of mind get teased out into four further circuits, which not everyone necessarily discovers. Ecstatic realization of the body-mind; thinking about thinking; the genetic adventure which may not yet be over; the Quantum Field, No-Mind, etc.

History of this model

Leary appears to have originally got it from 24 images relating to a Tantric map (you can read the story in What Does WoMan Want?)    He and Bob later elaborated on what he had learned, and they spent much time correlating information from other models (astrology, tarot, kaballah, etc).

In Leary's The Game of Life the 24 get divided into 8 'sets' of 3 phases - (reception, storage/integration/analysis, and transmission of information).  Exo-Psychology continues in that mode.

Generally, later work has ignored this complexification, and concentrated on the 8 circuits.

In fact, early on, in Neurologic,  (1973) Leary only describes seven systems.

Sometimes they get called 8 circuits, 8 systems, 8 channels, 8 modes, etc (RAW's own course he called 8 Dimensions of Mind, and based it on the sequence found in Prometheus Rising) – and although the model may seem to imply a hierarchy (e.g. 4 'terrestrial' and 4 'post-terrestrial' circuits), we could consider them all functioning simultaneously (like blood circulating, the autonomic nervous system, the central nervous system, digesting, walking, seeing, etc) – but with difference degrees of conscious awareness, perhaps.

This one week could never prove enough for someone new to this model, so you will find links to useful reference material here.  It might work out better to focus on the 'lower' four circuits as we all have experience of them, and can observe them – the 'higher circuits' may seem more interesting, but not everyone has necessarily experienced them all. 

Feel free to play with this material as much as you like.

Antero Alli (on his dedicated course) suggested we create a set of ‘tarot’cards to carry around – you can make them up with collage, illustrations, etc.

If you look at these PDFs of Bob's texts you may notice that the 6th and 7th circuits were reversed in “Prometheus Rising” (1983) – which contains exercises for each circuit - and yet RAW had used the more common sequence in Cosmic Trigger (1977).  By 1990, he had re-aligned with Leary and Alli in Quantum Psychology – surely an invitation to play around with this model yourself.

When asked about the anomaly (by email) Bob replied:

Leary revised this model several times.
The version in Prometheus Rising contains a few revisions
of my own.
Scientific models often need revision.
The model in this course is the latest, not the last... “

Discussion about people's perceptions of the 'higher circuits' might prove a fruitful discussion point in a thread of its own – especially as they may appear more elusive in their characteristics. 

However, if we look at the basic 4 circuits (common to virtually everyone) we may find it easier to discuss the value of them as a model to help analyse our own everyday experiences.

Suggestions and provocations:

·         Read through the 24 brief Tantric descriptions (see link above) and see how they correlate with (or have inspired) the current model
·         Browse the Winner and Loser Scripts for each circuit, see if anything sounds familiar – especially if you are familiar with NLP, or like to use positive affirmations, etc
  • Make up a set of cards to note down details picked up here and there in the research, and for jotting down your own insights.
  • “The map is not the territory”.  Korzybski argued that ‘is not’ does not have the same damaging effect as using the word ‘is’.  Does that feel right? 
  • When using maps we need several other tools – we need to know the scale; the orientation; our current position (in relation to the map); and what the map emphasises - no map contains all the data, so we need to understand the features highlighted by any particular map – using the icons in the delightfully named ‘legend’ that goes with the map.
  • In Cosmic Trigger Bob dismisses astrology, more or less, but Antero Alli shapes all his work around that map, or model.  Do you have other tools/maps/models that  you find useful?
  • 1. The map is NOT the territory
  • 2. The map does not show ALL the territory
  • 3. One can make a map of the map

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